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Viewpoint

Stephen J. Viz shall never return to Las Vegas, Nevada

OK, that’s probably hyperbole, but let me explain some things before I begin. First, I must apologize to the faithful readers of our humble little newspaper. This was a week with Vegas heavy content in The Observer. But c’mon, there was no way I was going to travel to Las Vegas and not write about it. Feel free to stop reading at any point if you have Sin City burnout. Second, as I wrote before Labor Day, if you get the chance to travel for Notre Dame football, take it and run with the money. The atmosphere inside Allegiant Stadium was electric and the football team’s turnaround under the leadership of Marcus Freeman and company must be commended. My excitement for the coming years can hardly be contained, as Notre Dame versus Texas A&M in 2024 is already on my calendar. With that being said, I only came to Las Vegas for a Notre Dame football-focused reunion, and without the pomp and circumstance of the Irish, I will find it hard to make it back to the city. Allow me to shed some light on the subject. 

Upon arriving to Harry Reid International Airport on Thursday night, I found myself as an exhausted little man. The week of Oct. 3 was a finals week for MBA students, and upon completing finals on Thursday morning, it took nearly us three and a half hours to make it to O’Hare in Chicago. Unreal. (JB Pritzker, you owe me $12.50 for overcharging us in tolls). The stop-and-go traffic made us nearly miss our flight, but by the grace of God, we made it. The six-hour flight was made worse by what must have been the world’s most annoying flight attendant. This dude seriously would not shut up. I’m sorry. His jokes were even worse. “Why was the mountain bad at hide and seek?” he asked. “Because it peaks!” Dead silence followed until a rowdy bachelor party sitting behind us began to curse him out. After that, I just may never fly Southwest again. Once we landed, we ventured out of the airport to hail an uber. As we were taken into the heart of the strip, the next sixty hours in the city would give me some keen insights on a place I’d rather not return to in the immediate future. 

My euphoria certainly increased upon seeing old classmates and taking in an Irish Victory, but my opinions regarding the city persisted throughout the high and lows of the weekend. How badly the city smelled was my first thought. Both inside and out, Las Vegas is a stinky town. Imagine Cheers Pub met a hot steam shower met a piece of gas station pizza and that will give you the insight on how I think Vegas smells. It was repulsive. It probably doesn’t help that folks are allowed to smoke inside, but the smell is something that will stick with me for the rest of my life. My second thought regarded the price gouging. It was most apparent at a Notre Dame function at Caesars Palace on Friday night. My friend Camden ordered a cocktail, and I eagerly awaited the receipt like a tiger stalking its prey. “That will be $73.50 sir,” the bartender responded. Lol. Bring back Prohibition if the venues in Vegas have the gall to charge nearly 100 bucks for a drink. But since people will gladly pay, I suppose those prices will stay the same (I chose to settle for a $17 Michelob Ultra, how lucky am I. Look at us, who would’ve thought). 

But as my thoughts continued to linger, they were always brought back to how depressing the town is. The sunshine, palm trees and bright lights don’t do a good enough job of hiding the depressive ooze of overpriced booze, bad behavior and the manipulation of customer appetites. The house always wins, and the gambling industry that has made Vegas a household name deserves a lot more criticism than I think it gets. While Vegas serves as a cultural center of America that brings people together for conferences, shows and bachelor parties, gambling sits at the heart of it all. A revenue driver that pieces the whole place together, it cannot be escaped. The airport is cluttered with various slot machines that beep and blink for any traveler that wants a taste. Casinos up the ante, as their floors can become filled with hundreds of guests looking to win it big on the blackjack table. But the reality is, almost all of them end up leaving with less money than they came in with. 

And I know what you might be thinking. “Oh Stephen, shut up nerd, live a little.” “Oh Stephen, you’re just a sore loser who lost money at the tables and now wants to complain about it.” “Oh Stephen, you’re just a guy who clearly can’t handle Vegas.” To answer that, yes I have lived a little, and love a healthy wager from time to time, whether that be on the golf course or on a downloaded sportsbook. And yes, I lost a little bit of money playing blackjack, but thank God I know my limits, because unfortunately for some, they don’t. 

Sadly, gambling can be devastating for those who don’t know their limits. Gambling addiction is a vice that can affect the wellbeing of not only those afflicted but the well-being of their friends and family as well. “I can make it all back on this hand” is a mindset that can be cancerous and once compulsive gamblers find themselves in a hole, it becomes very difficult to climb out of. Las Vegas’s bread and butter has been made off those with this crippling addiction. I found this great article written by a compulsive gambler fighting his addiction in Las Vegas. “Unlike alcohol or drugs, gambling was easy to hide. You couldn’t smell it on my breath. I could walk in a straight line and drive safely after a binge (my drink of choice while playing slots was sparkling water with a twist of lime). Gambling didn’t leave track marks on my arms or white residue in my nostrils. Several times, I met up with friends for dinner or to see a comedy show twenty minutes after losing a thousand dollars at the machines. I simply put on my happy social mask and carried on.”

A harrowing but optimistic story, the predatory nature of “Adult Disneyland” on those with addiction is the biggest reason why I will always find myself contemptuous with the city. While surely many people can enjoy a weekend in Nevada without worrying about overdrawn bank statements and maxed-out credit scores, gambling addictions have cost people their homes, careers, marriages and even their own lives. So, if you are reading this and have a compulsory gambling addiction, I am praying for you and your courage to be honest about your addiction. Viva La Vegas, I think not. 

Stephen Viz is a one-year MBA candidate and graduate of Holy Cross College. Hailing from Orland Park, Illinois, his columns are all trains of thoughts, and he can be found at either Decio Cafe or in Mendoza. He can be reached at sviz@nd.edu or on Twitter at @StephenViz. 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer.

Categories
News

‘A sense of community in Las Vegas’: Students return from Shamrock Series game

The annual Shamrock Series game took place this past weekend in Las Vegas, and students and fans traveled to Allegiant Stadium to watch the Fighting Irish take on BYU. 

“The energy at the game was super electrifying,” first-year Bella Vasquez, who attended the game with her family, said. “Everyone was so excited to be there.” 

Elizabeth Rhee, a first-year engineering student in Pasquerilla East Hall, echoed her sentiments.

“The energy was wild,” she said.

Both Rhee and Vasquez remarked on the strength of the Notre Dame presence, saying the fans were pretty evenly split between the teams.

Benjamin Nelson, a senior science business major from Keough Hall added, “It was kind of more like a bowl game than like a normal game.”

Junior biology major Heather Roland discussed the experience of being in an NFL stadium, as Allegiant is home to the Las Vegas Raiders.

“My dad’s a huge Raiders fan, so playing in the new stadium was … incredible,” Roland said. 

Students said that although it wasn’t quite the same as being at home in Notre Dame Stadium, the distance couldn’t derail some classic Irish traditions. Fans kept the spirit alive by doing touchdown push ups to celebrate the team’s success.

“I was glad we did the Alma Mater, because we don’t always do that at away games,” Roland said. 

As a member of the marching band, Rhee helped maintain this beloved tradition and spoke about how the group’s routine compared to normal.

“Times are mostly the same,” she said. “We have to wake up at a certain time, we have to rehearse.” 

However, she noted several key differences as well.

“We didn’t have any march outs,” she remarked, referencing the band’s tradition of marching from the Golden Dome to rehearsal on Fridays before game days.

“We just took a bus to travel to the place we needed to rehearse at,” she said.

Fan Fest, which took place in the parking lot, also replaced the classic Concert on the Steps, though Rhee said that the fans still brought excitement.

“It was mostly the same energy, same steps,” she summarized. 

Roland attended as a student manager for the football team.

“I work for defense, and they played very well, so I was very happy with that,” she said, continuing, “I was really glad that I got to go, very thankful for the opportunities I’ve gotten through my job as a student manager.”

Students who spoke with The Observer also discussed the environment throughout Las Vegas, seeing fellow students and fans throughout the city.

“You would see people out and about in Notre Dame shirts,” Nelson said.

“I would be walking around and [fans] would just be like, ‘Go Irish!’” Rhee added.

Vasquez spoke to this sense of community even so far from campus, emphasizing “how cool it was to see such a big turnout for our team and the support and the love for our school.” Nelson seemed to agree, saying that despite the travel, it was “100% worth it.”

Contact Keira Stenson at kstenson@nd.edu

Categories
Sports

‘Creating chaos’: Kiser ready to lead Irish over BYU

The linebacker room will be one man short for the first half of this week’s game as J.D. Bertrand got called for targeting again against the Tar Heels two weeks ago. The rest of the squad has practiced filling in for the senior captain, shifting over and running different packages but a lot of those adjustments have fallen on graduate student Jack Kiser. 

The Indiana native has been prepared for a moment like this though. Since high school, he’s played a wide range of positions. Then, he played anywhere from quarterback to defensive back. Now, he trains in every linebacker position and even sometimes in the vyper role on the line. 

Having played all over the field, Kiser has a clear perspective on the defense as a whole, their goals and what the Irish need to work on to strengthen their defensive presence through the rest of the season. The main focus, he says, is turnovers.

“If you want to be a great defense, you’ve got to create chaos,” Kiser said. “We haven’t created as much as we want but we certainly do believe when we get the thing rolling, they’re going to come in bunches. Every day we’re reminding people ‘Punch at the ball, rip.’ Anytime you’re around that ball it has to be some type of attempt to create that turnover. That’s something that’s always on our mind. Certainly going into this week it’s going to be just as big as any other week.”

Over the course of his career, the linebacker forced two fumbles and snagged three interceptions. All but one of those turnovers came last season. In both of his 2021 interceptions, Kiser ran the pick for six points, once against Wisconsin and again over Georgia Tech. 

Kiser has also been dominant in his tackling. With 26 on the season, 10 of them solo and one of them a sack, he’s had more than half of last year’s total only four games in. He doesn’t miss them either — Kiser has only three missed tackles in his career, all coming back in 2020.

“When I grab on, I’m not going to let go,” he said. “But it’s three too many [missed tackles]. Hopefully this year we can get that down to zero and be perfect in tackling because you have to be.” 

Even so, the Irish — Kiser included — have been focused on making sure they don’t lose anyone else to targeting calls and are tackling well.

“It’s super tough. They’re on scholarship, you’re on scholarship. You’re trying to win the game. At times, they’re 230 pounds and you’re trying to get them down, right? At the same time you have to keep in your head there’s a strike zone. When it’s a bang-bang play it’s tough but you gotta know to keep your head up and you’ve gotta avoid their upper shoulder, neck, head area. That’s something that we’ve been emphasizing the last couple weeks,” Kiser said.

While he says honing the technique has been important, Kiser also said they can’t falter worrying about that call being made though. 

“You can’t be scared to make a tackle because you have something in the back of your head that tells you not to,” he said. “But you have to be smart and you have to think about it so it’s a tough balance. We’re getting a scholarship to play football and as a defensive player, you’ve got to be able to find that balance… you’ve just got to trust yourself and be confident in your teaching and your ability and your technique to just go out there and play and make the best tackle you can.” 

In terms of what else he’s been working on, Kiser said in an interview earlier this season that he’s focused on “using [his] hands, being physical and block destruction.” He’s still working on those pieces while preparing for BYU this week. 

Despite not having Bertrand, Kiser trusts the group that will be out there to get the job done this weekend. They had a test run without Bertrand against the Tar Heels as this is his second game in a row with a targeting call. 

“I have complete confidence in whoever is out on the field that’s on this defense, they put in the preparation, they put in the work and they’re good enough to be out there and compete. If that’s me, if that’s Marist, if it’s Bo, whoever it is, we’re gonna get the job done and we’re gonna fill in and we’re gonna pick up right where J.D. left off,” Kiser said. 

The defense has their work cut out for them this weekend. A scrambling quarterback with receiving weapons has tripped up the Irish defense before this season. Heading into Las Vegas, Kiser said communication will be key. 

“The whole back seven, we’re going to have to be on top of our game, communication-wise you know, we can’t have any breakdowns,” he said. “North Carolina week unfortunately we had some breakdowns and we can’t let that happen this week.”

He added though that the need to play perfectly extends to the whole defense, especially this weekend. He feels like the defense knows what to expect from BYU though and they’re prepared to answer it.

“If we can get a rush upfront, that significantly helps the back seven. If we can cover in the back seven, if we can get home up front, it all comes hand in hand. Having that preparation, knowing what they like, what our answers are and creating that chaos. We certainly do believe we can create chaos and we just got to get there. If everyone is playing disciplined football, I think we can do that.” 

Contact Mannion McGinley at mmcginl3@nd.edu.